There’s something about baking bread that keeps me very zen. Maybe it’s the precise measuring, or working frustrations out by kneading the dough. Whatever it is, baking is my stress reliever. And when you can de-stress and make something delicious at the same time, it’s definitely a win-win.
This recipe for parmesan and black pepper whole-wheat focaccia bread comes from one of my favorite cookbooks: Flour by Joanne Chang. It’s a bit time consuming, but believe me, it’s well worth the effort.
2 cups water at body temperature (it should feel neither cold nor hot when you put your finger in it)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup olive oil
Medium-coarse yellow cornmeal
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the water and yeast and let sit for 20 to 30 seconds to allow the yeast to dissolve and activate.
- Dump the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, and the sugar onto the water and carefully turn the mixer on low. Let the dough mix for about 30 seconds (to prevent the flour from flying out of the bowl, turn the mixer on and off several times until the flour is mixed into the liquid, and then keep it on low).
- When the dough is still shaggy looking, drizzle in ¾ cup of the olive oil, aiming it along the side of the bowl to keep it from splashing and making a mess.
- With the mixer still on low, knead the dough for 4 to 5 minutes, or until it is smooth and supple. The dough should be somewhat sticky, but still smooth and have an elastic, stretchy consistency. If it is much stiffer than this, mix in a few tablespoons water; if it is much looser than this, mix in a few tablespoons of all-purpose flour.
- If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can combine the water and yeast in a large bowl. Then add the other ingredients as directed and mix with a wooden spoon. Once the oil is incorporated, dump out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, or until smooth and supple.
- Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl, and turn the dough to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with an oiled piece of plastic wrap or a lint-free damp cloth. Place the bowl in a draft-free, warm place for 2 to 3 hours. The dough should rise until it is about double in bulk.
- Once the dough has risen, flour your hands and your work surface and turn the dough out of the bowl. Gently stretch the dough into a rectangle about 10 by 15 inches.
- Sprinkle the cornmeal onto a baking sheet to keep the dough from sticking and place the dough rectangle on the sheet.
- Generously flour the top of the dough, and then cover it loosely, but completely, with a piece of plastic wrap or lint-free damp cloth. Place in a warm area for another hour or so, or until the dough rises a bit and gets puffy and pillowy.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat oven to 425°F.
- When the dough has risen, remove the plastic wrap and dimple the dough all over, using all ten fingers and firmly poking straight down into the dough all the way to the bottom.
- Sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly over the top, drizzle evenly with the remaining ¼ cup olive oil, and then sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper.
- Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until completely golden brown on the top and bottom. Lift the dough and make sure the underside is browned before pulling it out of the oven, or you will end up with soggy focaccia.
- Let cool until you’re able to handle it, and then cut into pieces.